Restrictions that allowed the U.S. to turn migrants away at the southern border amid the coronavirus pandemic are set to expire late on Thursday after three years in effect.
The restrictions, known as Title 42, were put in place by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 as the country grappled with curbing the spread of COVID-19. They have since been continued by President Joe Biden.
Here are some things to know about the policy:
What were Title 42′s restrictions?
Title 42 allowed authorities to immediately remove migrants who entered the U.S. illegally, sending them back to the last country they were in. Among those expelled were people seeking asylum. Children traveling alone were exempt, according to The Associated Press.
Since its implementation, Title 42 has been used more than 2.8 million times to remove migrants, the AP reported.
Why is it called “Title 42″?
The restrictions were based on Title 42 of a 1944 public health law that allows officials to limit migration in the interest of protecting public health.
The law allows authorities to prohibit people from entering the country “by reason of the existence of any communicable disease in a foreign country” when “there is serious danger of the introduction of such disease into the United States, and that this danger is so increased by the introduction of persons or property from such country that a suspension of the right to introduce such persons and property is required in the interest of the public health.”
Why is Title 42 ending?
The policy relied on the federal public health emergency caused by COVID-19, which will also end at the end of the day Thursday. Biden earlier announced the end to the emergency as people return to their normal lives three years after the coronavirus caused panic and uncertainty worldwide.
What change do officials expect to see?
Officials expect to see a surge in people trying to cross the border into the U.S. At a news conference Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas noted, “We are already seeing high numbers of encounters in certain sectors.”
The number of migrants apprehended at the southern border topped 10,000 per day this week, according to Reuters. The number is higher than the amount that officials told lawmakers that they were preparing for last month, Reuters reported.
What happens next?
Beginning at midnight on Friday, officials will fall back to using Title 8 of the United States Code, which Biden administration officials said would create tougher consequences for people who cross into the U.S. illegally.
Officials are also putting into effect a new rule presuming that people who enter the country illegally are ineligible for asylum, which would allow the U.S. “to remove individuals who do not establish a reasonable fear of persecution in the country of removal.” Those seeking asylum will be required to apply online or seek protection in a country they passed through, according to NPR.
“Unlike under Title 42, an individual who is removed under Title 8 is subject to at least a five-year bar on re-entry into the United States and can face criminal prosecution if they attempt to cross again,” Mayorkas said Wednesday.
The secretary said people will be allowed to voluntarily return to the country they entered the U.S. from in order to avoid facing a five-year ban. People will also be able to claim that they have a credible fear of persecution, though ”they will encounter a higher threshold, under our asylum rule, unless they have accessed our lawful pathways or sought relief in another country and have been denied,” Mayorkas said.
People who decline to voluntarily leave the U.S. or who do not claim fear of persecution will be removed immediately, the secretary added.
The Biden administration has been pushing for Congress to take action on immigration reform.